BUILDING THE BUDGET
Promoting Your Program and Meeting Funding Demands for Preservation and Security
13. Securing Preservation Funds • National and Institutional Requirements
Deanna B. Marcum
Focusing on a national rather than an institutional
perspective toward the subject of funding for the work of preservation
is an opportunity I welcome. Such funding is a major concern for me
personally and for the organization I represent, the Council on Library
and Information Resources (CLIR), a private nonprofit organization that
gets people together to work on issues affecting the ability of
libraries and archives to serve their constituencies. Preservation
funding is certainly such an issue, and we have long been involved. The
council came into being through the recombination of the Council on
Library Resources and the Commission on Preservation and Access, which
the council earlier had organized to concentrate on such problems as
how to prevent the loss of massive collections printed on acidic paper.
The CLIR as a whole continues to promote attention to "brittle books"
along with many other preservation concerns, including the problems of
preserving increasing quantities of digitized information.
Is funding adequate for dealing with such needs? Far
from it. Not that there is active opposition. Nearly everyone
regards preservation as a good thing. Who is not in favor of
preserving the intellectual and cultural record, the materials on which
teaching and research depend, the heritage of centuries of
civilization? The fact that it is considered a good thing has not, however,
been sufficient to guarantee adequate funding for preservation in
American research institutions.
Preservation funding is, in fact, imperiled.
Throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, the majority of major research
libraries in the United States developed preservation programs.
Advocacy for meeting preservation needs came from several national
organizations along with mine, and providers of funds both in the
private sector and in government responded with support. The National
Endowment for the Humanities, to take a prominent example, began in 1988
its program of grant-making for microfilming deteriorating books and
But support peaked early in the 1990s and now seems
in relative decline. A report issued in 1999 on preserving research
collections found that preservation expenditures in member institutions
of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) have been little more
than level since 1993, despite growth in total materials expenditures.
The report also found that external funding for preservation has
declined steadily and that staffing has declined as well.  The most
recently published ARL preservation statistics show a significant
decrease also in the volume of microfilming activity. 
Why these discouraging developments? Preservation
funding is imperiled for a number of reasons. First, private funding
tends to follow trends, and currently there is keen interest in
digitization as a means of making materials accessible to new and
broader audiences. Consequently access projects are far more likely than
preservation projects to succeed in the competitive review process.
Although the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, for example, continues to be
supportive of preservation work, funding for microfilming has been
redirected to digitization projects.
Second, something similar is happening in federal
agencies. The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Library
of Congress, and the Smithsonian Institution have adopted strategies
that emphasize access for the K-12 audience as well as for the
general public. Such an emphasis on accountability and service to all
constituents gives preference to funding requests that enhance access.
The strategies to improve access have increased the visibility of these
agencies and have led to better relationships with Congress. We can hope
that this will eventually lead to greater funding that can be applied
also to such important activities as preservation.
Moreover, the stagnation of the NEH budget in recent
years has hurt research libraries, which had taken considerable
advantage of the Endowment's microfilming support.  The NEH
preservation microfilming program is within its Division of
Preservation and Access. The division's annual allocation within the
NEH budget dropped from $22 million in fiscal 1995 to less than $17
million in fiscal 1996, and it rose only slightly above $18 million in
the succeeding four fiscal years.  Projects to develop tools
and resources for scholarship now compete with microfilming for funds
available from NEH. And the Institute of Museum and Library Services,
which has a funding category for "preservation and digitization," seems
thus far to be funding digitization projects only.
Finally preservation funding suffers because we have
not advanced a compelling national plan for preserving important
resources. In the absence of such a plan, we are without strategies in
which we can collaborate to strengthen our appeal for funding. Projects
continue to come piecemeal to funders, unsupported by a context of
national urgency and unrelated to a set of priorities for meeting our
massive preservation needs. Overcoming this disability is critical, I
believe, for countering the declines I have described in
fundingboth public and private.
How do we begin such a plan? The Council on Library
and Information Resources proposes to collaborate with the Association
of Research Libraries, the Oberlin Group of liberal arts colleges, and
a group of comprehensive university libraries not members of ARL in a
study that will be the first step. Using techniques both quantitative
and qualitative, we plan to evaluate current preservation conditions and
challenges, identify indicators of health, and recommend means for
revitalizing preservation programs. Specific investigations we propose
to make include the following:
(1) We must analyze preservation statistics in
relation to significant trends affecting American libraries. When in
2000 ARL member libraries reported a decline of 12.5 percent in
circulation since 1995 and a significant decline also in purchased
volumes (26 percent in monographs and 6 percent in serial titles) since
1986, we had to ask whether there was a concomitant drop in the need for
physical preservation.  Did these figures correlate with such
core preservation activities as binding, pre-shelf processing, and book
repair? What effect have major retrospective cataloging projects had on
preservation activities, and are these projects nearing completion?
(2) Libraries of all types report significant
increases in their digital acquisitions and conversions, but few have
developed adequate strategies for digital preservation.  What
role should preservation programs have in shaping institutional policies
for digital preservation? Has there been a shift in preservation
resources to meet these needs?
(3) In 1991, ARL issued benchmarks for selected core
activities in preservation programs.  Are these still valid
despite changing circumstances of ownership and access?
(4) We must address the brittle-books strategy
developed in the 1980s in light of changing fortunes in NEH and
consequent repercussions for funding. Is the strategy
compatible with new directions in library preservation programs?
(5) We must ask why institutions are finding it
difficult to attract top professionals to preservation positions. What
is the state of preservation education in library and information
studies programs? What can national professional organizations do to
develop preservation leadership skills and revitalize preservation
(6) Consortial structures for preservation work, such
as regional conservation centers, depend heavily on outside funding.
The Mellon Foundation is investigating possible business models for
greater self-sufficiency. What can we learn from such studies to
strengthen cooperative preservation activities? We should study
strategies for financing preservation programs that have succeeded in
research libraries and how they can be applied elsewhere. Are
institutions using local resources for preservation, or do they rely on
foundations and other external funds?
Once we have the proposed report's answers to these
questions, we will convene a conference of senior preservation
administrators, library directors, professional organization
representatives, and relevant others. We will ask them to consider, in
light of the report's findings, the role and the effectiveness of
preservation programs in the digital age. We will challenge them to
develop a plan of action for meeting preservation needs in American
libraries, archives, and related repositories.
The time for this is now. Even as funding is
slipping, digital technologies present new options for efficiency and
effectiveness in preservation as well as new technical and conceptual
challenges. For example, once a book is digitized and, with proper
maintenance, made electronically available indefinitely, will a need
remain for every library with a paper copy to invest scant resources in
preserving it? Or, would library funds go further if we collectively created national
repositories to preserve "artifact" copies of low-use materials,
while making electronic or microfilmed copies available to all our
After all, we are not preserving collections just for
the benefit of each of our institutions. We are collectively caring
forand preparing to pass onthe cultural inheritance of our
society. We must therefore articulate the urgent need for preservation
until it becomes a national priority. Do not conclude that you may
safely leave all this to national organizations such as the Council on
Library Resources or the Association of Research Libraries. Ultimately
each individual institution must view itself as a contributor to the
national collection of accessible scholarly resources, accept
responsibility for preserving a share of such materials, collaborate to
reduce the burdens of that responsibility, and help make the case for
support of this work to those who control resources.
Neither individually nor collectively can we discard
our obligations to be stewards of our collections. Preservation
continues to be a critically important issue, and we must all accept the
responsibility of keeping it in the forefront of our concerns. Funders
will find the case for meeting any institution's individual needs more
attractive if the contribution you are making to the nation's heritage
is justified in terms of collaborative efforts to achieve economies.
Together, we can preserve our cultural inheritance.